Pascal Standards FAQ (Rev. 001, 3-Apr-1995)

Application Compilers and Environments
Digital Equipment Corporation

Disclaimer: The opinions and statements expressed by me are not necessarily those of Digital Equipment Corporation.


This FAQ contains various questions that are frequently asked about the various Pascal standards.

Changes since Rev. 000
- New information for ISO online services

  1. What are the different Pascal standards?
  2. Who creates the standards?
  3. Anymore standards in progress?
  4. How do I get copies of the standards?
  5. How to find compilers for each standard?
  6. Comparison of Borland Pascal to the Pascal standards
  7. Various suggestions for enhancements/changes to the Pascal standards
  8. Required Interfaces to Extended Pascal
  9. History of Pascal Standards

Thanks to the following folks for contributions to the FAQ:

What are the different Pascal standards?

There are currently 3 different documents that can be classified as Pascal standards: Unextended Pascal, Extended Pascal, and the Object-Oriented Extensions to Pascal.

Unextended Pascal

The unextended Pascal standard was completed in 1983 and closely resembles the Pascal in the Jensen and Wirth Pascal User-manual and report. There were a few notable differences such as defining a ormal-parameter list on procedure-parameter definitions.

Originally, unextended Pascal was actually 2 standards. An ANSI/IEEE standard (ANSI/IEEE770X3.97-1993) and an ISO standard (ISO 7185 : 1983). There were 2 standards for mostly political differences that I won't get into here. For the most part, the ISO standard was a superset of the ANSI/IEEE standard and included the conformant array feature. See the foreword of Extended Pascal for some additional history of the development of unextended Pascal.

In 1989, ISO 7185 was revised to correct various errors and ambiguities found in the original document. Also, the ANSI/IEEE770X3.97 standard was replaced with a "pointer" to the ISO 7185 standard. So finally in 1989, there was only 1 unextended Pascal standard in the world.

The unextended Pascal standard (ISO 7185 : 1990) is still in force as a valid ISO language standard.

Extended Pascal

The Extended Pascal standard was completed in 1989 and is a superset of ISO 7185. The Extended Pascal standard is both an ANSI/IEEE and ISO/IEC standard. Both standards are identical in content with minor editorial differences between the IEEE and ISO/IEC style guiles.

The ANSI/IEEE number is ANSI/IEEE 770X3.160-1989. The ISO/IEC number is ISO/IEC 10206 : 1991.

Here is part of the foreword from the Extended Pascal standard to provide a short summary of the new features in Extended Pascal.

Object-Oriented Extensions to Pascal

After the Extended Pascal standard was completed, the committee took up the task of adding object-oriented features to Extended Pascal. Actually, the work applies to both Extended Pascal and unextended Pascal, but to get the full benefit from the object-oriented features, certain features from Extended Pascal must also be utilized.

This work was done as an ANSI Technical Report. Unlike the 2 previous standards, the technical report is not full of "standardize", but rather is more informal and readable than a full-bodied standard. This report was completed in 1993.

Features from the technical report include:

Who creates the standards?

Would you believe magic elves? No, I guess not...

The Pascal standards are development and maintained by the American committee, X3J9, and the International working group, WG2. Most of the standarizers actually belong to both committees.

During its peak, the committee met at least 4 times a year for a week at a time. The location of the meetings floated around from member to member trying to alternate east-coast vs west-coast. The WG2 meetings tried to alternate between North America and UK/Europe.

Recently, the committee's work has slowed down and the meetings average about 1 or 2 per year with very rare meetings in the the UK.

The committee is open to the public. To become a voting member on X3J9 you just have to satisfy some attendance/participation requirements (very easy) and be a member of X3 by paying dues (X3 dues can be waived for those unable to pay). Basically, anybody with a brain may attend (and if you've been to some previous meetings, you'll note that we sometimes waive that requirement too :-) )

If you are interested in attending a Pascal meeting, drop me a note at and I can give you information on the next meeting's location.

Over the past years, many different vendors, user-groups, acedemics, etc. have participated in XJ39. Here is a quick list (not intended to be a total list) of participants: Digital Equipement Corportation, Apple Computer, Microsoft, Tandem Computers, Sun Microsystems, Intel, Siemens Nixdorf, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Edinburgh Portable Compilers, Prospero Software Ltd. University of Bochum, Borland International, US Air Force, University of Teesside, Visible Software, US Census Bureau, Symantec, Unisys, GTE, Control Data Corporation, Cray Research Inc., E-Systems, ACE - Associated Computer Experts bv, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Central Michigan University, Pace University, St. Peter's College, Prime Computer, Queens University, Research Libraries Group, Florida International University, Apollo Computer, NCR Corporation, Data General, and various individuals representing themselves. (Well, technically almost all members of the committee represent themselves and not their employers, but I thought people would recognize the names of the companies and not the names of the individuals.)

Anymore standards in progress?

Recently, the committee has been working on an exception handling model that is similar to what you might see in C++ or Modula-3. We hope to produce another ANSI Technical Report on this in the future. However, we're in need of more people to participate in our work. In the past, most of the work was physically done at the meetings, but I think that in the future, we'll have to do work by e-mail or newsgroups in a more informal fashion and only have physical meetings to consolidate the final work.

How do I get copies of the standards?

The unextended Pascal and Extended Pascal standards are both copyrighted by the IEEE in the US and ISO/IEC in other contries.

You can obtain copies from the IEEE, your countries standards body, University libraries, corporate libraries, or the ISO/IEC in Genhva Switzerland. Also, there is a Standards FAQ posted montly in News.Announce which helps finding who to contact. It can also be found at You can also Telnet to with name "gopher".

Here is some contact information:

   Philips Business Information   1-800-777-5006
   Document Center                1-415-591-7600
   ANSI                           1-212-642-4900
   Attention: Customer Service
   11 West 42nd Street
   New York, NY 10036
   ISO Sales
   Case Postale 56
   CH-1211 Geneve 20
   email:   ! in English  ! en Frangais

I do not think that the IEEE has republished the unextended Pascal standard since it was essentially replaced with a pointer to the ISO 7185 standard. The IEEE may still have old copies lying around. The IEEE order number is SH08912. The ISBN number is 0-471-88944-X. I know that the revised ISO 7185 is available (I have a copy from BSI in the UK).

For Extended Pascal, the IEEE order number is SH13243 and the ISBN number is 1-55937-031-9. Last time I checked the IEEE's price was around US$55. I'm not sure what the ISO/IEC charges. In addition, I've been told that the GNU Pascal kit at contains a LeX script for Extneded Pascal. I have no idea about its accuracy.

The Object-Oriented Extensions to Pascal technical report is a ANSI technical report number ANSI/X3-TR-13-1994 (is 13 an omen?) I'm not sure of its copyright status, but it also isn't online in its final form (the editor was using some variant of Word Perfect and said he was unable to provide a readable text form). You can get the technical report from CBEMA in Washington DC. I have no idea at present how to get it outside the United States. I personally have a few hardcopies laying around my office and if you drop me a line at, I'll see what I can do.

I should point out that the unextended Pascal and Extended Pascal standards are written in a very legalistic form and are not light reading. They really aren't suitable as an implementation guide or learning how to use features from unextended or Extended Pascal. On the other hand, the Object-Oriented Extensions to Pascal technical report is written in a less formal style. The committee is planning on producing "standardese" for the technical report to include in a future revision of the unextended and Extended Pascal standards.

How to find compilers for each standard?

For unextended Pascal, there are dozens of compilers that accept unextended Pascal programs. They range from PCs (Prospero Pascal) to large Digital Alpha machines, IBM mainframes, HP workstations, etc.. Unfortunately, Turbo Pascal does not accept all programs from unextended Pascal (it lacks items such as GET, PUT, procedure parameters, etc.)

The US government performs validation services using the PVS (Pascal Validation Suite). The Pascal Validation Suite is available from Prospero Software in the UK (it was owned by the BSI (British Standards Institute until recently).

For Extended Pascal, only Prospero Pascal claims complete acceptance of Extended Pascal source code. Other vendor's compilers, like Digital, accept portions of the Extended Pascal standard. You'll have to ask your favorite vendor about support.

At present, there is no official Extended Pascal Validation Suite. Now that Prospero has obtained the rights to the Pascal Validation Suite, there is chance for a future EPVS. You'll have to ask Prospero about their plans.

For the Object-Oriented Extensions to Pascal, I know of no compiler that yet claims support of the document. Again, ask your vendor to make sure.

Comparison of Borland Pascal to the Pascal standards

As mentioned earlier, Turbo Pascal does not conform to any of the Pascal standards. If you carefully chose a subset of unextended Pascal, you may be able to port code if you're lucky/careful.

To be fair, Turbo Pascal has some wonderful features that make it very powerful in the environments in which it runs. However, those same features are of little use on non Windows/DOS platforms and probably are not good candidates for standardization.

There are several Turbo Pascal features which are semantically similar to features in unextended Pascal or Extended Pascal. Here is a list of mappings between Turbo Pascal features and Extended Pascal features:

Various suggestions for enhancements/changes to the Pascal standards

If you have comments, suggestions, opinions, etc. about future Pascal standards work, please speak up! Send them to the committee and we'll put them on the agenda. However, to be honest, without a person who has an interest in the new feature, they tend to dry up and die. So, if you REALLY want a feature in the Pascal standards, be prepared to write up CONVINCING arguments about standarizing. I'll warn you now not to bias them to any particular system or hardware. If what you suggest won't work (at least conceptually) on all machines from Crays, Alphas, Pentiums, OS/2, OpenVMS, DOS, NT, PowerMacs, etc., then you'll have a very hard time to get it in the standard. You don't have to prove that its implementable (although it helps) or even easy to implement... That doesn't mean that you can't suggest something that is implementation defined (MAXINT for example), but such a feature better have some redeeming reason to be included in the standard.

We can certainly discuss potential changes here in comp.lang.pascal, but in my opinion, the amount of Turbo Pascal-specific information might make it hard to carry on a discussion. If so, then lets try to have some key in the subject line so we can quickly spot them. Alternatively, if the comp.std.pascal newsgroup goes ahead, then that would be the perfect spot for new feature discussions for the Pascal standards.

Here are a few changes/additions to Extended Pascal that have bounced around the newsgroup (I may or may not support each of the following items or even know what they mean, I'm just writing them down).

I think that each of these items could be discussed and produce some positive suggestions.

Required Interfaces to Extended Pascal

The Extended Pascal standard includes 2 concepts that provide hooks for interfaces to things outside of Pascal.

Firstly, Extended Pascal has an IMPORT declaration that brings in an interface. Extended Pascal's interfaces correspond to Turbo Pascal's units.

When Extended Pascal was being worked on, the committee asked itself if there should be any required interfaces or required bindings (other than for file variables). At first, there was of talk about all sorts of require interfaces (for sorting, for screen mangement, etc.). However, any such talk quickly deteriorated when we started talking about things like keyboards, joysticks, vector processors, etc. Just as one couldn't imagine a joystick on a Cray, we couldn't imagine a vector processor on a 286 DOS machine. So the idea of REQUIRED interfaces was quickly dismissed. Next the committee said "what if we specify an interface and say 'if you provide it, you must provide at least this much'". That had quite a bit of support, but when push came to shove, it also vanished from the standard leaving absolute no hint of any required interfaces.

I certainly think we could discuss interface definitions that would be 'if you provide it, you must provide at least this much'.

Recently, there was some early discussion about a keyboard interface. I think that would be a good starting point. Here again, I would say that any proposed interface must deal with multiple types of keyboards. Like those that return multiple-bytes for each key pressed, for keyboards in different countries that have other characters on keys that aren't in the "normal" Latin-1 character set, etc..

Other interfaces might include a printing package, screen package, I/O package, GKS, X-windows, an object-oriented visual environment, networking, etc..

Secondly, Extended Pascal has a BIND statement that binds a variable to an external entity. Extended Pascal uses BIND to bind a file variable to an external file such that it can then be processed with READ, WRITE, etc.. This feature is much less "procedural" than using interface (Extended Pascal does not provide operator overloading and therefore importing an interface can only provide access to procedures, functions, variables, types, and constants, but not operators).

One could imaging binding an integer variable to an I/O port and every use of the variable would read from the port and every write to the variable would write to the port. You might even want to combine interfaces and bindings. The possibilities (and discussions) are endless...

Foreword to Extended Pascal standard with history and list of features

Here is part of the foreword from the Extended Pascal standard to provide some history of it (and of unextended Pascal).

Project History

In 1977, a working group was formed within the British Standards Institution (BSI) to produce a standard for the programming language Pascal. This group produced several working drafts, the first draft for public comment being widely published in 1979. In 1978, BSI's proposal that Pascal be added to ISO's program of work was accepted, and the ISO Pascal Working Group (then designated ISO/TC97/SC5/WG4) was formed in 1979. The Pascal standard was to be published by BSI on behalf of ISO, and this British Standard referenced by the International Standard.

In the USA, in the fall of 1978, application was made to the IEEE Standards Board by the IEEE Computer Society to authorize project 770 (Pascal). After approval, the first meeting was held in January 1979.

In December of 1978, X3J9 convened as a result of a SPARC (Standards Planning and Requirements Committee) resolution to form a US TAG (Technical Advisory Group) for the ISO Pascal standardization effort initiated by the UK. These effors were performed under X3 project 317.

In agreement with IEEE representatives, in February of 1979, an X3 resolution combined the X3J9 and P770 committees into a single committee called the Joint X3J9/IEEE P770 Pascal Standards Committee (Throughout, the term JPC refers to this committee.) The first meeting as JPC was held in April 1979. The resolution to form JPC clarified the dual function of the single joint committee to produce a dpANS and a proposed IEEE Pascal Standard, identical in content.

ANSI/IEEE770X3.97-1983, American National Standard Pascal Computer Programming Language, was approved by the IEEE Standards Board on September 17, 1981, and by the Amterican National Standards Institute on December 16, 1982. British Standard BS6192, Specification for Computer programming language Pascal, was published in 1982, and International Standard ISO 7185 (incorporating BS6192 by reference) was approved by ISO on December 1, 1983. Differences between the ANSI and ISO standards are detailed in the Foreword of ANSI/IEEE770X3.97-1983. (BS6192/ISO 7185 was revised and corrected during 1988/1989; it is expected that ANSI/IEEE770X3.97-1983 will be replaced by the revised ISO 7185.)

Following the decision that the first publication of a standard for the programming language Pascal would not contain extensions to the language, JPC prepared a project proposal to SPARC for an Extended Pascal Standard. When approved by X3 in November 1980, this proposal formed the charter for Project 345.

JPC immediately formed the Extension Task Group to receive all proposals for extensions to the Pascal language, developed the content of proposals so that they were in a form suitable for review by JPC, fairly and equitable reviewed all proposals in light of published JPC policy, and provided a liaison with the public in all matters concerning proposed extensions to the Pascal language.

X3 issued a press release on behalf of JPC in January 1980 to solicit extension proposals or suggestions from the general public. At this time, JPC had already prepared a list of priority extensions; public comment served to validate and supplement the priority list. Criteria for evaluationg extensions were established and include machine indepedence, upward compatibility, conceptual integrity, rigorous definition, and existing practice as prime objectives. Extension proposals submitted by the public and by the JPC membership were developed and refined. JPC procedures guaranteed that proposals would be considered over at least two meetings, affording adequate time for review of the technical mertis of each proposal.

By June of 1983, twelve extensions had been designated by JPC as candidate extensions and were published as the Candidate Extension Library. Ongoing work was described in Work in Progress, published with the Candidate Extension Library. This effort served as an interim milestone and an opportunity for the public to review the effort to date.

In 1984, BSI also started work on extensions to Pascal, with an initial aim of providing extensions in a few areas only. In 1985, the ISO Pascal Working group (then designated ISO/TC97/WC22/WG2, now ISO/IEC JTC1/SC22/WG2) was reconvened after a long break to consider proposals from both ANSI and BSI in an international forum. Thereafter WG2 met at regular intervals to reconcile the national standarization activites in ANSI and BSI and to consider issues raised by the other experts participating in WG2.

The Work in Progress document, along with other proposals subsequently received, continued its development until June 1986. The process of reconciling individual candidate extensions among themselves was begun in September 1984 and continued until June 1986. During this phase, conflicts between changes were resolved and each change was reconsidered.

Working drafts of the full standard were circulated withing JPC and WG2 to incorporate changes from each meeting.

The candidate extensions were then integrated into a draft standard that was issued for public review. The Public Comment Task Group (PCTG) was formed to respond to the public comments and recommended changes to the draft. To promote a unified response on each comment issue, PCTG included members from both WG2 and JPC. All responses and recommended changes required final approval by JPC and WG2. PCTG recommended several substantive changes that were subsequently approved as changes to the draft. These changes were incorporated and a new draft was produced for a second public review.

Project Charter

The goal of JPC's Project 345 was to define an implementable, internationally acceptable Extended Pascal Standard.

This Standard was to encompass those extenions found to be:

  1. Compatible with ANSI/IEEE770X3.97-1983, American National Standard Programming Language Pascal, and
  2. Beneficial with respect to cost.

JPC's approved program of work included:

  1. Solicitation of proposals for extended language features;
  2. The critical review of such proposals;
  3. Synthesis of those features found to be acceptable individually and which are mutually consistent into a working proposed standard;
  4. Interface with all interested standards bodies, both domestic and international;
  5. Submission of the working draft to ISO/TC97/SC22/WG2;
  6. Synthesis and submission of a draft proposal ANS consistent with any international standard developed;
  7. Review and correction of the dpANS in light of any comment received during Public Comment and/or Trial Use periods.

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